Preparations have been well underway to welcome the Borderland Thunder for their first home game this Friday night.
M & M Meat Shops here is organizing a tailgate party—featuring food and music—starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Memorial Sports Centre as a way to get Thunder fans ready for the team’s home-opener against the Thunder Bay Bulldogs.
Thunder players also will be on hand to sign autographs and meet with fans for the first part of the party. T-shirts, jerseys, 10 tickets for Friday’s game, and hats also will be given away.
“I think [the Thunder] will provide an excellent source of entertainment,” said M&M manager and tailgate party organizer Garth Donald.
“We want to tag ourselves with a successful program. We like to support with whatever community event comes in,” he added.
On the ice, Couchiching Chief Chuck McPherson and Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon will join Superior International Junior Hockey League commissioner Harvey Fedell and fellow brass at the opening ceremonies, which will feature the singing of the national anthem by “Quest for the Best” participant Christina Bombay.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Thunder president Shawn Jourdain. “Fans can expect a good time.”
The Thunder, who sit atop the SIJHL standings with a 4-1-1 record, will meet the Bulldogs again Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Mayor Witherspoon, a former coach and manager of the Royals (the last junior team to play here in the late 60s and early 70s), said the return of junior hockey will only be a positive for the district.
“They have a good mix of local kids. If there’s ever been a great effort put on by a new team, it’s the Thunder,” said Mayor Witherspoon, whose late father, Jim, owned the Royals.
“I’ve been impressed with the organizers. I can’t say enough for the sponsors.”
By all accounts, the Dryden Icedogs’ home-opener last weekend was a rousing success. They sold the building out and held a similar pre-game party.
Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan said this area can easily match that turnout this weekend.
Donald, who admits to not being a total hockey fan, said the town’s interest in the sport has spilled into his store—and the talk is not just about the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
“We’ve seen people coming into the store talking about the [Thunder],” he noted. “In general, there’s been some local talk and hopefully they’ll enjoy this season.”
Some 500 advanced tickets for this weekend’s games are being sold at Skates and Blades here and the C.C. Complex at Couchiching for $6 each.
Tickets at the door will cost $7 for adults and $5 for stu-dents/seniors.